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No one who knows me would tell you that I am a fashionista—someone who is on top of all the latest fashion trends—but I do try to wear clothes appropriate for the occasion. Just as I would not wear formal attire to paint my house, I would not wear my painting clothes to attend a wedding or a banquet. Your beliefs and attitudes can often be discerned by what you wear. Do you have respect for others? Do you have respect for yourself? Many of my students at the Faculty of Education would question what to wear as they prepared to start a placement in a new school. I always advised them that it would never be a problem if they were more professional or more conservative than the other people working there.

In Colossians 3, Paul advises us what to wear and what not to wear, metaphorically speaking. In Colossians 3:1, he tells us to keep seeking things above—keep working toward becoming more and more like the person that Christ wants us to be. This is not an instantaneous transformation, but a work that will be in progress as long as we are on this earth. Christ died to redeem us all from our evil human nature, but it is up to us to continually choose to live in a way that honours Him. So Paul tells us to put off such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language and lies. (Colossians 3:8,9)

Since who we display on the outside is usually a representation of who we are on the inside, Paul exhorts us to change our clothes. He wants us to clothe ourselves with a heart of mercy. (Colossians 3:12) Mercy means showing compassion when we have the power to punish. If someone has done you wrong, you have the opportunity to forgive them instead, which is another piece of the clothing that Paul suggests. (Colossians 3:13) He also recommends kindness, humility, gentleness and patience—putting others ahead of ourselves and being considerate while also treating them with respect and tolerance. We are all on this journey towards transformation together, and none of us has reached our destination yet. We need to be understanding of each other’s imperfections.

Above all, Paul asks us to put on love. (Colossians 3:14) Although we can, by way of duty, accomplish all of the preceding virtues without having love, I Corinthians 13 tells us that without love, all else is meaningless. It is our love for God, and His love flowing through us, that will help us to love those around us. It is our love for God that will make us want to choose a wardrobe that will best represent Him. If you want to wear the outfit that is most appropriate for your role as a child of God, wear love.

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In last week’s post, I talked about the steps to take if someone has done something against you, and more specifically against God’s principles, but isn’t willing to admit he’s wrong. But what if he does realize he is wrong? What if he is sorry and asks forgiveness? What if he has asked for forgiveness a dozen times before, but he keeps asking for forgiveness for similar things? At what point do you stop being patient? At what point do you stop forgiving?

Peter asked Jesus that question in Matthew 18:21. Peter also suggested a possible answer. He suggested that seven would be a good number of times to be willing to forgive someone who has sinned against you. This was actually quite generous on Peter’s part, since Rabbinic teaching held that you should forgive three times, and you needn’t forgive the fourth. So Peter was doing his best to be loving, but Jesus wanted more from him—and from us. Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:22) Now, do you think Jesus meant that Peter should get out his scroll (or shard of pottery since they were easier to come by) and keep track of each time he forgave someone? Then stop when he got to 78? I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. I think the number Jesus gave was significantly larger than the one Peter gave, and even more significantly larger than what the rabbis taught, that His listeners would get the idea: keep on forgiving.

Jesus followed this answer with a parable to reinforce His teaching. (Matthew 18:23-35) Jesus tells the story of a servant who owed a great debt to his master. The master said it was time to collect, but the servant couldn’t pay so he begged for more time. Now, the servant owed 10,000 talents. A talent was the largest unit of money, and ten thousand was the largest number for which the Greek language had a specific word. Jesus’ use of these huge amounts would have had the desired effect on his listeners. There was not enough time in his lifetime for the servant to ever be able to completely repay this debt. His master had mercy on him, and forgave the debt. One would think the servant would be grateful for mercy in the place of justice. He justly deserved, according to the laws of the time, to be sold into slavery, along with his family so that at least some of his debt could be repaid. Instead, he was free to go and owe nothing. But he wasn’t so kind to a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii. A denarius was equivalent to a day’s wage for a labourer, and 100 days’ worth of income--27.4 percent of a year’s income--was not an insignificant amount. It would have taken some time for that servant to pay back such a debt also. However, since a talent was worth 6,000 times more than a denarius, and the first servant owed 10,000 talents compared to the second servant’s 100 denarii, the amount of debt relief received by the first servant would make up for what was owed by the second servant many, many times.

The debt that was cancelled by the master to the first servant was an enormous act of mercy, and represents God’s act of mercy in giving up His own son to pay the debt that we could never possibly pay. All he asks from us in return is that we forgive the small things that our fellow disciples do to us. Significant, perhaps, but nothing compared to the mercy we have received from God. And he wants us to keep on forgiving them, without keeping a count.

The fight between good and evil—it is a common theme in books and movies, especially older movies, but there is no question that it is also a part of our daily life on this Earth. I Peter 5:8 warns us to be sober and alert. The devil is looking for someone to devour, to win over to his side, so we must be constantly aware and work to avoid being ensnared by him. Ephesians 4:27 instructs us not to give the devil a foothold, an opportunity. How can we do that? The whole message of Ephesians 4 is that we need to be transformed from our old selves to our new selves through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul encourages us to live with humility, gentleness, patience and love in order to maintain peace and unity in the Spirit. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we are instructed to put our old ways behind us and to start living as the person who was created in God’s image, striving to be like Him by knowing His truth. One specific way to do this is to follow the guidance given in Ephesians 4:26: Be angry and do not sin.

Anger is an emotion, a gift given by God, and it is impossible to avoid becoming angry. Sin, however, is an act of the will or a lack of self-control. We choose how we will act when we are angry, either consciously or by failing to exercise self-discipline. Some Bible scholars state that because the verb in the original language is in the imperative form, we are commanded to be angry, and they discuss the value of righteous anger. God gets angry at sin, and so should we. Of course, God is sinless and we are not, so we are in much bigger danger of doing the wrong thing with our anger. Other scholars say that yes, it is the imperative form, but it is a permissive imperative. In other words, go ahead and be angry if you must, but be careful what you do with it. Whichever interpretation you believe to be true, the rest of the sentence is clear: do not sin. Make sure that you are controlling your emotions rather than allowing your emotions to control you.

The second half of Ephesians 4:26 should be taken symbolically rather than literally. It doesn’t mean that if you get angry in the morning you have a longer time to fume and stew than someone who didn’t get angry until later in the day. It means that you should resolve the disputes between you as soon as possible, and you should do it in the light of day. Darkness symbolizes deceit while daylight symbolizes truth. Work out your differences with pure motives. Forgive each other as we talked about last week. If we can control our anger and keep from sinning in the midst of this intense emotion, we will succeed in keeping unity and peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will not give Satan a chance.

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Last week, when we were talking about the model prayer that Jesus gave His disciples, I made quick mention of Matthew 6:14-15. I think these two verses warrant a little further discussion. As I said last week, Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, and His gift of forgiveness is freely available to us; all we have to do is accept it. Our request for daily forgiveness helps us to be aware of our own sins, and helps to keep us in a right relationship with God—one where we depend on His love and grace.

Matthew 6:14-15 says that God will not forgive our sins unless we forgive others. We must be careful not to interpret this in a way that will contradict other passages of scripture. Romans 3:24 tells us that we are all justified by God’s grace through the redemption that has been provided by the death of Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith. It is a gift from God, and not something that we can earn. Therefore Matthew 6:14-15 cannot be referring to the matter of salvation. If you have accepted Christ’s salvation, however, and you want to be His follower, you should be willing to forgive others. Of course, our human nature is a factor, and it isn’t always easy. I know there have been many times that I have prayed something like, “Lord, I really want to forgive, because I know it is the right thing to do, but my heart isn’t quite in it yet. Please help me.”

We must also remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Dr. Grant Mullen, author of Emotionally Free explains. “Forgiveness involves just you and God. Reconciliation requires another person. So, just because you forgive doesn’t mean you’re reconciled or that you have to reconcile. Some people are just too dangerous to reconcile with. You just have to forgive and be separate.” Let us hope that that is not true of our fellow followers of Christ. God would like us all to be one family, His family, characterized by love for each other, but since we live in a fallen world, that isn’t always possible. We cannot always determine how others will act toward us, but we can control how we act towards them. If we want to do it God’s way, that will be with love and forgiveness.

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In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the prodigal son, and how after some hard lessons stemming from his initial pride, and accelerated by desperate circumstances, he humbled himself and came home to his father. In Part 2, I discussed that the older brother was still at the point of pride, arrogance and self-righteous unforgiveness when it came to his non-conformist little brother. Today, I will focus on the father’s reaction to them both.
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How the father’s heart must have hurt when his younger son asked for his inheritance early. It was like wishing his father dead. At the very least the prodigal was saying that he had no more use for his father’s love, wisdom or company. The only thing he valued was the money and the right to make his own choices. The father loved his son enough to give him his freedom. He did not want to force his son to do the right thing, though I am certain he would have welcomed his son’s wanting to do so out of love. That would not happen until some difficult circumstances changed the son’s perspective. When the prodigal son did come home willingly, and humbly, his father did not have to be talked into taking him back. The father’s love for his son was so great that he ran—not something that older men of the East were likely to do—to greet his son. I’m sure the son looked and smelled like he had been spending his time in a pig sty, but his father embraced him and did not even let him finish his rehearsed speech before he sent his servants to fetch the robe, ring and sandals, items that symbolized honour, authority and family status. And then the feast! The fattened calf was not just for a small intimate family dinner. The whole village would have been invited. Considering that the actions of the prodigal son would have brought shame to his family and his village and would have merited being stoned by those villagers (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), this feast would have been a clear message that his son was not only to be spared, but also restored to his rightful position in the family.

The father’s reaction to the older brother was just as compassionate. The older brother must have been certain that he was justified in making the comments he did, but he also was quite insulting to his father. The brother questioned his father’s judgement, and even though, according to tradition, the older brother would have received twice as much inheritance as the younger brother, he selfishly whined about not having enough. As a matter of fact the older brother now had it all. The father had given everything he had to his two sons, and the younger son’s share had been wasted. All that remained belonged to the older son. Surely if he had wanted to have a party with his friends before this day he could have had it. But what he wanted was all the attention, and he was not at all pleased that his father was giving some—a lot—of it to his younger, sinful, brother. Indeed, because of the older brother’s selfishness, the father left the festivities to come out and speak with him. The father did not chastise his older son. He didn’t tell him to stop whining and being selfish. He patiently answered him and showed love to him as well.

We need to remember that this parable (Luke 15:11-32) was shared to teach Jesus’ listeners about the grace and love that the Heavenly Father has for all of His children. That He cares for those that are lost, even when they are lost through their own willfulness. That there is rejoicing in heaven when a lost soul humbly admits his need for a saviour. And that those who think they are above reproach are actually in worse shape than those who know their need. All of this applies to us. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to make a way for us to come humbly home to Him. And He will welcome us with open arms. He will run to meet us if we will only take the first steps of the journey. He will not hold our past against us, or even the fact that we were sure we were right all along. All we have to do is accept His invitation to come home, and the rejoicing will begin.

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When I was growing up, I was a younger sister, but I always felt like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. My older brother was always pushing the limits as far as what he should and should not do, and my overactive sense of justice always wanted him to be held accountable. I never quite understood why the older brother in this parable was corrected by his father, (Luke 15:25-32) because I thought he, the brother, was right. Why should the son who caused all the trouble get the party when the one trying to consistently do the right thing is seemingly forgotten? The answer is that the prodigal’s older brother, and I, did not understand grace.

Let’s take a minute to look at the context of this parable. At the beginning of the chapter, (Luke 15:1-2) the Pharisees were complaining that Jesus was welcoming sinners and sharing meals with them. In response, Jesus told three parables: of the lost sheep, (Luke 15:3-7) of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) All of them were intended to show the joy of our Heavenly Father when a lost soul is redeemed. After all, it is sinners that God sent His son to redeem. (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31, John 3:17) But the parable of the prodigal son goes a step further. This parable also addresses the attitude of the older brother, which was the same as the attitude of the Pharisees. The prodigal son was lost because of his own bad choices, which he soon realized, but the older brother was lost and didn’t even know it. He was self-righteous and full of pride. He did what he was supposed to do, but what were his motives? He was looking for his father’s approval of his works, rather than accepting his father’s unconditional love.

I find it sad that when the older brother came in from the field and heard the festivities inside the house, he didn’t even guess that his brother may have come home. He had to ask a servant what the noise was all about. He certainly hadn’t been watching for his brother’s return, and he refused to celebrate it. He found no joy in what pleased his father, but rather wallowed in his own selfishness. Wouldn't it be great if we could display abundant grace, mercy and forgiveness to the lost souls in our circles? If they are willing to show the humility that the prodigal son showed, let us share our Father’s joy and welcome them home.
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Stay tuned for Part 3, next week. I've saved the best news for last.

No one who knows me would tell you that I am a fashionista—someone who is on top of all the latest fashion trends—but I do try to wear clothes appropriate for the occasion. Just as I would not wear formal attire to paint my house, I would not wear my painting clothes to attend a wedding or a banquet. Your beliefs and attitudes can often be discerned by what you wear. Do you have respect for others? Do you have respect for yourself? Many of my students at the Faculty of Education would question what to wear as they prepared to start a placement in a new school. I always advised them that it would never be a problem if they were more professional or more conservative than the other people working there.

In Colossians 3, Paul advises us what to wear and what not to wear, metaphorically speaking. In Colossians 3:1, he tells us to keep seeking things above—keep working toward becoming more and more like the person that Christ wants us to be. This is not an instantaneous transformation, but a work that will be in progress as long as we are on this earth. Christ died to redeem us all from our evil human nature, but it is up to us to continually choose to live in a way that honours Him. So Paul tells us to put off such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language and lies. (Colossians 3:8,9)

Since who we display on the outside is usually a representation of who we are on the inside, Paul exhorts us to change our clothes. He wants us to clothe ourselves with a heart of mercy. (Colossians 3:12) Mercy means showing compassion when we have the power to punish. If someone has done you wrong, you have the opportunity to forgive them instead, which is another piece of the clothing that Paul suggests. (Colossians 3:13) He also recommends kindness, humility, gentleness and patience—putting others ahead of ourselves and being considerate while also treating them with respect and tolerance. We are all on this journey towards transformation together, and none of us has reached our destination yet. We need to be understanding of each other’s imperfections.

Above all, Paul asks us to put on love. (Colossians 3:14) Although we can, by way of duty, accomplish all of the preceding virtues without having love, I Corinthians 13 tells us that without love, all else is meaningless. It is our love for God, and His love flowing through us, that will help us to love those around us. It is our love for God that will make us want to choose a wardrobe that will best represent Him. If you want to wear the outfit that is most appropriate for your role as a child of God, wear love.

Today's post was written by Donna L. Watkins.
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With forgiveness being recommended now even by the medical world, many are looking for specific steps to be used in forgiveness. There are many "techniques" out there and many people have been through all they've read, and faithfully followed through with the suggestions, but still have this burning sting from words that were hurled at them at some time in their life -- or for actions that spoke much louder than words -- and they don't know how to get beyond what "that person did."

Recently I had a family member choose to dump our relationship because I made a one sentence statement in a gentle tone against listening to him rant about another family member. After instantly hanging up on me, he wrote me a note to cancel plans we had to meet on a future date, and then stopped all communication.

I had decided to take a stand against listening to "evil reports" of other family members and that was grounds for termination in his mind. It seems life holds nothing else for him but to repeat the worst of the tv news, weather or family issues. I didn't see that it was a relationship at all if the only function I was to have in his life was to listen to the ranting and reviling.

Then I also heard he'd already begun talking about it to other family members. I certainly wasn't surprised that he did, but I was very surprised that it bothered me. I was actually relieved that I took the stand and said that I didn't want to be in the middle of it. Admittedly I was initially delighted that he would no longer be calling 3-4 times a week for those downgrading conversations. The more I would try to add positive comments to these conversations, while trying to honor his position in the family, the more useless I felt about it all. He seemed to think I was a Pollyanna and it was exhausting to find enough Light to cover the Darkness that he chose to talk about.

So, why would I feel bad about this with so many obvious benefits for me? My wonderful husband is never lacking with resources on Spiritual issues, so he handed me a booklet called, "Rewards of Being Reviled," by Bill Gothard.

The book says that "reviling comes from a heart of scorn and contempt. It is the spewing out of anger and hatred. It is a verbal attack upon another person, given with deep emotional fervor. Its purpose is to vilify, to defame, to bring shame upon, to discredit, and to attribute evil and sinister motives to what that person says and does. It is to engage in ridicule. To ridicule is to cause others to laugh at a person or his ideas. It is to sneer, scoff, and belittle him. Ridicule is an expression of disdain."

It talks about all the ridicule and reviling that David experienced and I have always loved Psalms in times of trouble. His enemies provided opportunity for him to be able to write with deep emotion and insight.

The cool part of the deal is that the books says, "Notwithstanding the serious nature of reviling and the severe consequences for those who engage in it, there are great rewards for those who endure reviling and understand God's purposes for allowing it to occur. Matthew 5:12 tells us to "Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."

It gave a story of a little girl that had been stung by a bark scorpion, the most poisonous scorpion found in Arizona, which results in excruciating pain and numbness, then swelling, physical weakness, dizziness, tightening of the throat, and tingling of limbs.

Since this had happened before to the mother, they now had a small device that produced a high-voltage, low-current electrical charge. When electrodes from this unit are placed in the area of the sting or bite, they send a positive electrical charge into the victim's bloodstream. This, in turn, neutralizes the venom, which has a negative charge, and renders it harmless. This leaves only a mild soreness for a short time and a small mark of where the scorpion struck.

Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Reviling is using the power of the tongue for death, and blessing is using the power of the tongue for life. A curse is like a negative charge, and a blessing is the positive charge that neutralizes the destructive nature of the negative charge.

A verbal blessing is more powerful than a verbal curse because good is more powerful than evil. God is more powerful than Satan, and light is more powerful than darkness.

On a mission trip, a student was reviled by the leader during a heated conversation. The incident hurt and shocked her and weeks later she was still emotionally involved in the incident while continuing to rehearse the reviler's words in her mind and feeling the pain each time she did.

She had forgiven this leader, but her emotions were rooted deeper than her words and her forgiveness was hollow and insincere. As time passed, her wound only became more infected. Her forgiveness was a surface response that she knew was Biblical and right, but it did not reach the venom that was surging through her emotional veins. The venom of reviling is long-lasting.

One day she heard a message on the power of verbal blessings and why it is essential for us to bless those who curse us. She understood this concept, and that night she could not fall asleep until she verbally blessed the leader who had reviled her.

Since then, she has continued to have freedom in her spirit from the hurts of this past event. She also has a deeper walk with the Lord as a result of this experience.

How do we do this?

Scripture provides words that can be used: Numbers 6:24-26: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face to shine up on thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

When we ask God to bring His benefits to the lives of revilers, we are blessing them. I have often looked back at some of the genetic options of my family tree and can easily say, "There but for the grace of God, go I." It certainly makes it easier to have mercy and grace on others who have not chosen to walk out of circumstances and generational curses.

My prayer for blessing my enemies is that those blessings will overcome the darkness of the curses that have caused them to be so angry. If you will look back on the situation you struggle with, you will find ways that God blessed you because of it.

Let me give you a personal example that Bill Gothard shared in his booklet mentioned above. He writes, "When attendance at the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar first began to multiply, it was something of a phenomenon and was certainly a surprise to me. I could not explain it and was therefore hesitant to talk about it to reporters. They assumed that this constituted secrecy, and two Christian magazines published articles of a defamatory nature.

" I called the writer of the first article and tried to explain what I thought he had misunderstood. He reacted, and matters became worse. When the second article was published, God prompted me to have a different response. I called the writer. When he learned that I was on the phone, he cautiously answered. I then said, 'I have called to tell you how God has used your articles to benefit my life and ministry." He was totally surprised and said, 'Oh?' I continued and explained that God had used his article to do a work in my life, and in the ministry in three very positive ways.

" First, I was forced to reexamine what I was teaching and how people perceived what I was saying. Second, it unified the people who had been to the seminar and knew that the article reflected a misunderstanding of what was being taught. Third, as a result of this reviling, people had sent in thousands of dollars to encourage me and to support the seminar ministry.

" I'm sure the writer was not expecting this response. He became warm and friendly, and thanked me for my call. God has blessed both of our ministries since that day .... and today I consider him a friend."

My prayer is that this will allow you to give some thought to another approach to your memories and wounds. Ask God to first show you good that has come from it. Ask him to let you see how He has used it for good in your life as Romans 8 promises. Then, take the above suggestion from Scripture and choose to bless the person every time the memory returns.
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Donna L. Watkins lives in Central Virginia with her wonderful husband enjoying birds, wildlife, gardening, forests, nature travel and her cat, Squeek. More articles can be found at TheHerbsPlace.com and a free subscription to her mailing, A Healing Moment. http://www.theherbsplace.com/ahm.html

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Today is Good Friday. It is the day that we remember the death of Jesus by crucifixion—a horrifying death of slow torture, ridicule and public humiliation. He had committed no crime, and yet He endured the worst punishment known to man. He died by being hung on a tree, a symbol of being cursed by God. (Deuteronomy 21:23-24) So why do they call this Friday Good?

It is good because Jesus chose to endure this agony so that we would be spared eternal punishment. He took the curse upon Himself so that we would not have to bear it. While He hung on the cross, the rulers, the soldiers and one of the criminals hanging beside Him all mocked Him and told Him to save Himself. One of the criminals added that He should save the two of them as well. The irony of this is that if Jesus had saved Himself at the moment, the rest of us would not have been saved at all. The sin of the world demanded the atonement that only comes from the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Jesus’ enduring the suffering of the cross was our only hope for salvation. Despite the injustice of Jesus’ death, the innocent man dying in place of the criminal, God was still at work. He brought the ultimate good from this situation.

Even while dying, Jesus was not concerned for His own life, but for the lives of those around Him. This was His whole reason for coming to earth. As they were crucifying Him, He was asking for mercy on their behalf. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34) If anyone had reason to seek revenge and the ability to elicit the wrath of Almighty God, it was Jesus. But He did not. Instead He asked the Father to forgive His abusers. Jesus was following His own precepts, and He wants us to follow His example too, (John 13:15) to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to forgive others. (Colossians 3:13) By the grace of God, and the working of the Holy Spirit within us, we will be able to do just that. Let’s demonstrate the good every day. Are you willing?

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Can you imagine what it would be like to have an abortion that didn't succeed? Can you imagine what it would be like for the baby? To be honest, I can't really imagine either scenario. It's not something that I've thought very much about until the last few days. On Wednesday I posted a movie review written by my colleague, Rusty Wright. The movie is October Baby, the story of a young woman who finds out not only that she was adopted, but that her birth mother had intended to abort her. This story was inspired by Gianna Jessen, who really did survive abortion. You can meet her, and the makers of the film, in the following video.